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Politics and the national good

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(A reprint from 1979)

History contains some very valuable lessons for us, if only we try to learn from them. Regrettably, that is often not the case, especially where politics is concerned and as a result we seem doomed to repeat many of the mistakes of the past. The occasional glimpses I provide through this column of some of our historical legacy are aimed at reflecting on important episodes in our historical development. One such period was touched last week, the time of the volcanic eruptions of La Soufriere in 1979.{{more}} This week I am offering a reprint of a letter which I wrote to the VINCENTIAN newspaper, dated April 28,1979.

Note: I was at the time General Secretary of the progressive political party, YULIMO, which had advocated national unity to tackle the Soufriere crisis. “Strolling Scribbler” was a regular contributor to the VINCENTIAN newspaper.

Dear Madame Editor,

Permit me to share a few thoughts with your readers on “La Soufriere, Politics and the National Good”.

I have noticed that following the first eruptions of the Soufriere volcano, there have been calls in some quarters for the shelving of “politics” given the current national crisis. Those who do so are either genuinely confused in their conception of what constitutes politics or are afraid of broad public discussion as to the political implications of the eruptions.

La Soufriere and its eruptions have a whole host of implications for this society-economic, social and political. In attempting to grapple with the problems caused by the eruptions, one has not only got to look at the economic and social problems, we need to try and come up with political solutions as well. But these problems have got to be solved on the basis of the national good and not on narrow, selfish aims of this or that party.

Hence what is needed is not a shelving of “politics” but an approach to politics based on the particular circumstances of the moment, an approach based on national survival which is today our main task. One has therefore got to approach politics at the present time, not within a framework of partisan politics which sows disunity and discord, but within the framework of national unity. It is regrettable that many of our current politicians, both within the government and opposition, do not quite seem to appreciate this fact.

We need at this hour due cooperation at all levels of the society and a broad consensus among all political parties on a common programme of action in the national interest. Should we survive the eruptions of La Soufriere, the rehabilitation programme can never be successfully implemented in an atmosphere of politicking, division and distrust. This will do neither the nation nor the various political parties any good.

It is on the basis of recognizing the prime necessity for national survival that YULIMO, true to its patriotic traditions ,has formulated its current line .It is therefore very mischievous of “Strolling Scribbler” to suggest that YULIMO’s current line is “….just another form of smart propaganda”. Had YULIMO taken the short-sighted and selfish line of other opposition parties, Scribbler would have roundly condemned us for it .Let him give praise where praise is due, reluctantly though it might be.

As to the surprise expressed in several quarters about YULIMO’s position, it is good to recall our position during a period of similar national interest, our country’s march towards independence. YULIMO was then the only political party which boldly supported the governments efforts to seek independence, and, like today, we also advocated national unity. Our disagreements with the government were not about whether we should seek independence or whether the time is ripe (for independence), but on the basis of the lack of involvement of the people, the failure to forge national unity.

Our position today is therefore consistent with our views and actions, in keeping with our approach of what is best for our country as a whole.

Thanking you,

Renwick E.A. Rose

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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